Models

For a long time, people thought our solar system revolved around the Earth. Copernicus (or Galileo to some) came around and proved the planets revolved around our Sun.

Models are important - they are the perspective of an individual's perception of any given event. Models are always biased, but the objective should be to choose a model with the least bias possible.

How is this achieved?

Scrutinize opposing aspects, think critically, and have an open mind.

"All Truth passes through three stages: First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as self-evident."

- Arthur Schopenhauer

Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't.

- Mark Twain


These opinions below may be my own or may belong to the authors whom I reference. They are posted for the benefit of mankind, so that we may collectively achieve a common ground and transition into a new golden era as seamlessly as possible.


Saturday, March 30, 2013

Sirius Disclosure - World Premiere will be held on April 22, 2013


The Sirius World Premiere will be held on April 22, 2013 in Los Angeles, CA. Click here for more details.

The Earth has been visited by advanced Inter-Stellar Civilizations that can travel through other dimensions faster than the speed of light. They use energy propulsion systems that can bring us to a new era. Humans have also developed these systems but those in power have suppressed them in order to keep us at the mercy of fossil fuels. It is time for you to know…and this documentary will let you in.


Sirius Disclosure is a research project working to fully disclose the facts about UFOs, extraterrestrial intelligence, and classified advanced energy & propulsion systems. We have over 500 government, military, and intelligence community witnesses testifying to their direct, personal, first-hand experience with UFOs, ETs, ET technology, and the cover-up that keeps this information secret. - See more at: http://siriusdisclosure.com/#sthash.RD5aqRD7.dpuf


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Watch Out, World Bank. Here Comes the BRIC Bank




Leaders of the five BRICS nations plan to create a development bank in a direct challenge to the World Bank that they accuse of Western bias.

The bank would use $50 billion of seed capital shared equally between Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa but would undoubtedly be dominated by China. It would be the first institution of the informal forum started in 2009 amid the economic meltdown to chart a new and more equitable world economic order.

At a summit meeting on Wednesday in Durban, South Africa, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave support for the bank but cautioned it "must work on market principles."

India's trade minister said BRICS will "have a defining influence on the global order of this century."

The five countries represent a fifth of global GDP and share high growth and geopolitical importance in their separate regions, but have struggled to find common ground that would convert their economic weight into joint political clout.

The two biggest economies of the group, China and Brazil, marked their determination to make changes in the world's trade and financial architecture by signing a three-year currency swap agreement covering up to $30 billion a year in bilateral trade.

Brazilian officials said the aim was to ensure their fast-growing commercial ties would not suffer if a new banking crisis caused dollar trade finance to dry up.

"Our interest is not to establish new relations with China, but to expand relations to be used in the case of turbulence in financial markets," Brazilian Central Bank Governor Alexandre Tombini told reporters after the signing.

Brazil's mineral resources and farm products have helped fuel China's industrial growth and feed its people while bringing prosperity to the Latin American giant.

Bilateral trade totaled around $75 billion last year, with Brazil selling iron ore, soy products and crude oil, and buying Chinese machinery, electronics and manufactured goods.

Brazilian officials have said they hope to have the trade and currency deal operating in the second half of 2013.

"If there were shocks to the global financial market, with credit running short, we'd have credit from our biggest international partner, so there would be no interruption of trade," said Economy Minister Guido Mantega.

At the Durban summit, the group's fifth since 2009, the BRICS leaders were also expected to endorse plans to create a joint foreign exchange reserves pool.

The proposed development bank and reserves pool reflect frustration among emerging nations at having to rely on the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, which some see as reflecting the interests of rich nations.

The reserves pool of central bank money would be available to emerging economies facing balance of payments difficulties or could be tapped to stabilize economies during crises, according to documents obtained by Reuters outlining it.

Officials had said BRICS states aimed to inject an initial $50 billion into a new infrastructure bank, but there was disagreement over whether each should contribute $10 billion or if contributions should vary by the size of their economies.

China's economy is about 20 times the size of South Africa's and four times as big as Russia's or India's.

The bank would support financing needs in emerging and developing nations for roads, ports, power and rail services.

The BRICS leaders were also due to discuss economic ties with Africa, at a time when many on the continent are seeking more balance and a different focus in trade and investment, especially from China. (Read More: China's New President Offers Africa 'No Strings' Aid)

New Chinese President Xi Jinping is attending on his first visit as head of state to Africa. In Tanzania on Monday, Xi told Africans he wanted a relationship of equals that would help the continent develop, responding to concerns that Beijing is only interested in its raw materials.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Revolt against City of London's medieval elders





AFP - For almost a thousand years the City of London Corporation has run the British capital's financial hub, winning hearts with opulent banquets and parades of red-robed dignitaries, pikemen and musketeers.

But campaigners want to open up the secrets of this arcane organisation, arguing that its medieval structures are helping one of the world's top financial centres avoid reform after the global crisis.

Dating from when Londoners lived in huts of wattle and daub, the City of London survived the Black Death and the Great Fire of London to emerge as a powerful but opaque force in modern Britain.

Today the corporation manages the "Square Mile" as a separate enclave within London with its own police force, employing 3,500 people and commanding billions of pounds (dollars) in funds.

But critics say it has failed to respond to the problems in the financial industry laid bare following the global crisis, instead protecting its own.

"The machine of the City of London serves the dealmakers," said William Campbell-Taylor, a Church of England vicar and longtime critic of the corporation.

"The myth of (finance as) the goose that lays the golden eggs is one that is nurtured in the Guildhall", the 15th-century banqueting hall where the corporation was traditionally based, he said.

The corporation plays a key role as a forum for top-level financial and political networking, often carried out at lavish banquets or through visits abroad by the Lord Mayor, its ceremonial envoy.

But reformers criticise the secrecy of some of its operations, including parts of its accounts and the allocation of votes to City workers in elections -- as well as its unorthodox blend of private and public functions.

Elections for the councillors and aldermen who run the corporation are held without political party affiliations.

The City Reform Group, which was formed last year in the wake of the financial crisis by a group including a Conservative lawmaker and a former fund manager, has seized on elections this month as an opportunity to push for change.

Many are standing for positions themselves so that they can agitate from the inside, while they are also asking other candidates to sign up to seven pledges that emphasise accountability.

The reform group's top demand is the release of full accounts for the "City's Cash", an 800-year-old, £1.3 billion ($1.9 billion, 1.5-billion-euro) endowment fund which is cloaked in secrecy.

Today, the fund which includes income from the corporation's 11,000 acres of British land, aims to promote Britain's financial services, on which the corporation says it spent £12 million in 2012.

But critics say the City has succeeded in lobbying for the status quo despite widespread calls for changes to the way banks in particular are regulated.

"We think the corporation should be leading standards in the way that the guilds and the livery did," says writer and reformist Jonathan Myerson, who will be standing in the elections.

London's ancient guilds or livery companies -- where the corporation has its roots -- were set up to provide guarantees of quality for different professions from goldsmiths to fishmongers.

The corporation itself sees its role promoting the finance industry as a success story.

"Most of (the lobbying work) is about getting business into Britain," Mark Boleat, the corporation's policy chief, told a debate about the City's future in February.

Financial services brought in more than 10 percent of Britain's tax take in 2009-10, according to studies by accountants PwC.

The corporation is now wooing Chinese banks to set up London offices, and it has also been instrumental in the arrival of a clump of new skyscrapers on the skyline.

Tony Travers, professor at the London School of Economics, doesn't believe the corporation was a factor in the financial crisis, telling AFP: "If that were true, that wouldn't explain how it happened in New York or other cities in Europe."

He said the "soft diplomacy" of banquets and parades was a way of "sustaining the mystique of the City. It's hard to believe that doesn't have beneficial impacts, but it's hard to measure".

Demands for change have emerged before, but a 2002 deal with the then-ruling Labour party -- whose policy had once been to abolish the corporation altogether -- entrenched many of its peculiarities in law.

For many locals, exactly how the corporation works is far from the forefront of their minds.

"People are more worried about whether their company is still going to be here tomorrow," said Robert Bates, 42, an insolvency partner at an accountancy firm, drinking in a busy City pub.

But David Pitt-Watson, a reformer and ex-fund manager, believes change is inevitable.

"London's economic future depends on the reform of financial services," he said. "The alternative to reform (of the corporation) is not the status quo, it's revolution."

Michael Moore Admits on CNN Live: We Are Ruled by Shadow Government



Sandy Hook truthers are not giving up


Brendan Hunt (Credit: brendanhunt.com)

Meet Brendan Hunt, a 20-something NYC resident with a video camera. He and his movement are on a mission
BY ALEX SEITZ-WALD 


Brendan Hunt is nothing like the other Sandy Hook conspiracy theorists we’ve encountered. Yes, he thinks the December shooting was a kind of hoax to help the government seize power. But he’s not some right-wing “gun nut.” He’s not a militia member. And he’s not middle-aged and living in the middle of the country.

Hunt is in his 20s and lives in New York City, where he is an “actor, musician, artist and independent journalist.” He’s starred in Shakespeare plays and independent films and written books and news reports. His roots aren’t in the radical-right or libertarian movements, but on the left side of the political spectrum, where he’s aligned himself with Occupy Wall Street and says he’s produced segments for WBAI, a well-known public radio station in New York affiliated with the proudly “radical” left-wing Pacifica network.

Social scientists have used the term “fusion paranoia” to describe the merging of the radical left and right into a common concern about the government and centralized power to a point where they are almost indistinguishable on many issues. A British study released last year found that many conspiracy theories are pushed by core groups of people who are prone to believe in conspiracies of all kind — even contradictory ones.

And this isn’t Hunt’s first conspiracy rodeo. He has an e-book positing that Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain did not commit suicide, but was in fact murdered, and a movie about the Illuminati.

Hunt and a friend took a ride up to Newtown, Conn., to produce an “exposé” recently. In his videos, he identifies himself as a reporter with WBAI as he travels around speaking with residents, including Gene Rosen, the man who helped save six children and has been harassed by conspiracy theorists for it. (Several officials at WBAI did not immediately return requests for clarification on Hunt’s affiliation with the station.)

Wearing hoodies, Hunt and the friend come upon Sandy Hook Elementary from the woods in the back. They gingerly approach the fence line, taking time to point out the barbed wire and sign, noting that it’s under electronic surveillance. They point out key locations where they think one of the extra gunmen may have escaped through the woods while fleeing the scene.

“I believe that this event was pulled off by a group of tactical police officers of some kind, working as a unit, and that they didn’t complete their job in time, before the local police showed up and busted up whatever operation they had going,” he says in another video.

At the Masonic Lodge, which is — of course — involved in their theory, they find an ominous sign: A Masonic “G” written on the pavement. They try to peer inside the building through the windows. “I can barely make out a fridge and things like that,” one says.

Later they surreptitiously record a conversation with a bartender, whose real name they repeat. Hunt burps, complains about needing to make better “rendezvous points” with his buddy, and leaves huge portions of unedited video as he wanders around looking for his friend in the dark.

It’s not exactly the Zapruder film. The footage is innocuous and low-budget. One gets the impression that these are kids harmlessly goofing around, acting out a little secret mission in the woods. But with the power of the Internet, that little mission can be amplified to anyone looking, which makes the next part a bit disturbing.

Outside a tidy white house, the screen goes dark. It’s Gene Rosen’s house and Hunt hides the camera to surreptitiously record audio. When he answers, Hunt introduces himself: “My name’s Brendan from WBAI. I have a little radio show and TV show.”

“WBAI in New York City?” Rosen asks inquisitively. “Yeah,” one of the two friends responds. “It’s a neutral blog we’re doing, we’re sort of trying to play both sides, we’re not, you know …” the other says, before trailing off.

Rosen says he’s been through a lot already with the truthers and isn’t really interested in talking more. The two friends say they totally understand where he’s coming from, and agree those truthers are terrible. Rosen declines the interview (as he did for this story, citing a desire to avoid encounters like this).

Jeffrey Pyle, a First Amendment lawyer with the Boston-based law firm Prince Lobel, tells Salon that while Connecticut requires all parties to consent to being recorded over the telephone, only one person needs to consent in person, so the recording is probably kosher.

They return later that night. “You can get a close look at Gene’s house,” he says zooming in on the white house, while remarking about nearby landmarks and road names, making the location easily identifiable. He continues to “snoop around,” but eventually backs off to avoid raising suspicion.

The two friends are hardly intimidating — Hunt proactively asks a police officer if he’s not allowed to be where he’s standing at one point in the video — but the video suggests the Truther conspiracy is more resilient than many suspect, and how this kind of “just asking questions” could lead to unintended consequences.

Hunt and I went back and forth in an interview over many rounds of emails. After I sent him some questions, he posted them on his website with answers, and asked commenters to edit them before he’d send them back to me. He later seemed to get cold feet.

In the publicly posted answers on his website, he started off eager to talk, saying, “I think there are some real discrepancies in the official narrative, which deserve to be looked at by mainstream media outlets. I would be more than happy to discuss them with you.” That quickly turned to suspicion: “It has come to my attention that you’ve written several articles about Sandy Hook skeptics, not exactly portraying them in the best light.”

Asked about his interest in conspiracy theories, Hunt says he’s “suspicious of both mainstream and alternative media, and I try to make an informed opinion on current events by thinking critically about important issues. Some topics that I’ve been researching recently include the trial of Bradley Manning, and the U.S. drone bombing campaign in the Middle East.”

“I first started to get interested in the alternative Sandy Hook theories,” he explains, “when I saw the helicopter footage of police chasing someone into the woods directly in back of the school.”

The last time we checked in with the Sandy Hook truthers, the movement was flagging a bit after a meteoric rise in the month following the shooting.

But the theory has shown surprising resilience, spiking back up near its record high again and again in the last few weeks on social media. For instance, on February 19, a video purporting to show that victims’ families are “crisis actors” got social media 150 simultaneous mentions, according to Topsy, another claiming to be the “ultimate” hoax video got almost 200 a week later, and a third “official” video climbed even higher the next week. And it’s been climbing in the past week, since March 12. And this time, outside the gaze of the media, the interest seems to be driven by the conspiracy websites, not mainstream news reports.

David Mikkelson, the co-founder of the myth-busting website Snopes.com, tells Salon the Sandy Hook material is currently “warm,” if not the single most dominant topic he’s monitoring: “There’s a fair amount of interest, but there are many topics (e.g., Angolan witch spider, burundanga, Facebook privacy warnings) that are generating far more search/inquiry interest on our site right now.”

Will it ever go away? “I’d say, like all conspiracy theories, it’ll hang around for a while — holding less interest for the general public over time, but never going away completely,” Mikkelson explains. “I think a lot of the interest or belief is driven by the fact that we still know so little about the shooter and his motivations, so people naturally try to fill in the blanks (as they did with, say, the JFK assassination) by positing that the whole thing must have been part of a larger and grander plot rather than an act committed by a single person for no sensible reason.”

Indeed, the Hartford Courant excoriated officials in a recent editorial for “clamping down” on information. “Secrecy feeds into the whispers of those conspiracy theorists who believe that the police have something to hide,” the editors wrote.

After the Newtown town clerk was “inundated” by requests for death certificates of the children killed, lawmakers considered restricting access to the documents, but that only fueled the theorists and prompted a resurgence in activity on conspiracy message boards as people assumed there must be something to hide.

“We are being denied to see the death certificates to prove that children actually died in Sandy Hook. At this time, there are no actual photos of them dead, body bags, or videos of them in the school,” wrote one poster on LiveLeak. “How come for the first time ever, they are trying to cover up the Death Certificates?”

This cycle of conspiracy theory and government secrecy is typical, experts explained to me, putting officials in an awkward lose/lose situation when it comes to tamping down myths. If they release more information, it might be mined for inconsistencies with initial reporting, which is always spotty and often wrong. If they don’t release more information, it will be taken as proof positive that there is something fishy going on.

If Hunt’s material is any indication, this is what’s happening with Sandy Hook. In other words, the movement is far from over.


Alex Seitz-Wald is Salon's political reporter. Email him at aseitz-wald@salon.com, and follow him on Twitter @aseitzwald.

Monday, March 18, 2013

EURO ZONE ORDERS CYPRUS TO SEIZE 10% OF BANK ACCOUNTS




By Michele Kambas
NICOSIA | Sun Mar 17, 2013 6:06pm EDT

NICOSIA (Reuters) - Cyprus was working on a last-minute proposal to soften the impact on smaller savers of a bank deposit levy after a parliamentary vote on the measure central to a bailout was postponed until Monday, a government source said.

In a radical departure from previous aid packages, euro zone finance ministers want Cyprus savers to forfeit a portion of their deposits in return for a 10 billion euro ($13 billion) bailout for the island, which has been financially crippled by its exposure to neighboring Greece.

The decision, announced on Saturday morning, stunned Cypriots and caused a run on cash points, most of which were depleted within hours. Electronic transfers were stopped.
The originally proposed levies on deposits are 9.9 percent for those exceeding 100,000 euros and 6.7 percent on anything below that.

The Cypriot government on Sunday discussed with lenders the possibility of changing the levy to 3.0 percent for deposits below 100,000 euros, and to 12.5 percent for above that sum, a source close to the consultations told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The source said the discussions had the "blessing" of a troika of lenders from the European Commission, the IMF and the European Central Bank.

In Brussels, a spokesman for Olli Rehn, the European commissioner in charge of economic affairs, said discussions were still under way in Cyprus.

"If the Cypriot leaders agree on a more progressive scale for the one-off levy, in view of making it fairer for smaller savers and provided this would have the same financial impact, the Commission would be ready to recommend that the Eurogroup endorse such an agreement," the spokesman said.

The move to take a percentage of deposits, which could raise almost 6 billion euros, must be ratified by parliament, where no party has a majority. If it fails to do so, President Nicos Anastasiades has warned, Cyprus's two largest banks will collapse.

One bank, the Cyprus Popular Bank, could have its emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) funding from the European Central Bank cut by March 21.

A default in Cyprus could unravel investor confidence in the euro zone, undoing the improvements fostered by the European Central Bank's promise last year to do whatever it takes to shore up the currency bloc.

A meeting of parliament scheduled for Sunday was postponed for a day to give more time for consultations and broker a deal, political sources said. The levy was scheduled to come into force on Tuesday, after a bank holiday on Monday.


Making bank depositors bear some of the costs of a bailout had been taboo in Europe, but euro zone officials said it was the only way to salvage Cyprus's financial sector.
European officials said it would not set a precedent.

In Spain, one of four other states getting euro zone help and seen as a possible candidate for a sovereign rescue, officials were quick to say Cyprus was a unique case. A Bank of Spain spokesman said there had been no sign of deposit flight.

But the chief of Greece's main opposition, the anti-bailout Syriza party, Alexis Tsipras, blamed the move on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, according to Greek state news agency ANA.

"We must all together raise a shield to protect the peoples (of Europe) from Ms Merkel's criminal strategy," said Tsipras, who wants a pan-European debt conference to forgive debt.
The crisis is unprecedented in the history of the Mediterranean island, which suffered a war and ethnic split in 1974 in which a quarter of its population was internally displaced.

Anastasiades, elected only three weeks ago, said savers will be compensated by shares in banks guaranteed by future natural gas revenues.

Cyprus is expecting the results of an offshore appraisal drilling this year to confirm the island is sitting on vast amounts of natural gas worth billions.

In a televised address to the nation on Sunday, Anastasiades said he had to accept the tax in return for international aid, or else the island would have faced bankruptcy.

"The solution we concluded upon is not what we wanted, but is the least painful under the circumstances," Anastasiades said.

With a gross domestic product of barely 0.2 percent of the bloc's overall output, Cyprus applied for financial aid last June, but negotiations were stalled by the complexity of the deal and the reluctance of the island's previous president to sign.

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde, who attended the meeting, said she backed the deal and would ask the IMF board in Washington to contribute to the bailout.

According to a draft copy of legislation, failing to pay up would be a criminal offence liable to three years in jail or a 50,000 euro fine.

Those affected will include rich Russians with deposits in Cyprus and Europeans who have retired to the island, as well as Cypriots themselves.

"I'm furious," said Chris Drake, a former Middle East correspondent for the BBC who lives in Cyprus. "There were plenty of opportunities to take our money out; we didn't because we were promised it was a red line which would not be crossed."

"I've lost several thousand," he told Reuters.

British finance minister George Osborne told the BBC on Sunday that Britain would compensate its 3,500 military personnel based in Cyprus.

Anastasiades' right-wing Democratic Rally party, with 20 seats in the 56-member parliament, needs the support of other factions for the vote to pass. It was unclear whether even his coalition partners, the Democratic Party, would fully support the levy.

Cyprus's Communist party AKEL, accused of stalling on a bailout during its tenure in power until the end of February, would vote against the measure. The socialist Edek party called EU demands "absurd".

"This is unacceptably unfair and we are against it," said Adonis Yiangou of the Greens Party, the smallest in parliament but a potential swing vote.

Many Cypriots, having contributed to bailouts for Ireland, Portugal and Greece - Greece's second bailout contributed to a debt restructuring that blew the 4.5 billion euro hole in Cyprus's banking sector - are aghast at their treatment by Europe.

Cyprus received a "stab in the back" from its EU partners, the daily Phileleftheros said.
But it and another newspapers highlighted the danger of plunging the banking system into further turmoil if lawmakers sat on the fence.

"Even if the final agreement is wrong, if this is not approved by parliament the damage will be even greater," Politis economics editor Demetris Georgiades said in an editorial
.
(Additional reporting by John O'Donnell; Editing by Stephen Powell)

Friday, March 15, 2013

1.6 Billion Rounds Of Ammo For Homeland Security? It's Time For A National Conversation



By Ralph Benko

Armored Personnel Carriers in Baghdad. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Denver Post, on February 15th, ran an Associated Press article entitled Homeland Security aims to buy 1.6b rounds of ammo, so far to little notice.  It confirmed that the Department of Homeland Security has issued an open purchase order for 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition.  As reported elsewhere, some of this purchase order is for hollow-point rounds, forbidden by international law for use in war, along with a frightening amount specialized for snipers. Also reported elsewhere, at the height of the Iraq War the Army was expending less than 6 million rounds a month.  Therefore 1.6 billion rounds would be enough to sustain a hot war for 20+ years.  In America.

Add to this perplexing outré purchase of ammo, DHS now is showing off its acquisition of heavily armored personnel carriers, repatriated from the Iraqi and Afghani theaters of operation.  As observed by “paramilblogger” Ken Jorgustin last September:
  
"[T]he Department of Homeland Security is apparently taking delivery (apparently through the  Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico VA, via the manufacturer – Navistar Defense LLC) of an undetermined number of the recently retrofitted 2,717 ‘Mine Resistant Protected’ MaxxPro MRAP vehicles for service on the streets of the United States.”

These MRAP’s ARE BEING SEEN ON U.S. STREETS all across America by verified observers with photos, videos, and descriptions.”

Regardless of the exact number of MRAP’s being delivered to DHS (and evidently some to POLICE via DHS, as has been observed), why would they need such over-the-top vehicles on U.S. streets to withstand IEDs, mine blasts, and 50 caliber hits to bullet-proof glass? In a war zone… yes, definitely. Let’s protect our men and women. On the streets of America… ?”


“They all have gun ports… Gun Ports? In the theater of war, yes. On the streets of America…?

Seriously, why would DHS need such a vehicle on our streets?”

Why indeed?  It is utterly inconceivable that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is planning a coup d’etat against President Obama, and the Congress, to install herself as Supreme Ruler of the United States of America.  There, however, are real signs that the Department bureaucrats are running amok.  About 20 years ago this columnist worked, for two years, in the U.S. Department of Energy’s general counsel’s office in its procurement and finance division.  And is wise to the ways.   The answer to “why would DHS need such a vehicle?” almost certainly is this:  it’s a cool toy and these (reportedly) million dollar toys are being recycled, without much of a impact on the DHS budget.  So… why not?

Why, indeed, should the federal government not be deploying armored personnel carriers and stockpiling enough ammo for a 20-year war in the homeland?  Because it’s wrong in every way.  President Obama has an opportunity, now, to live up to some of his rhetoric by helping the federal government set a noble example in a matter very close to his heart (and that of his Progressive base), one not inimical to the Bill of Rights: gun control.  The federal government can (for a nice change) begin practicing what it preaches by controlling itself.

Remember the Sequester?  The president is claiming its budget cuts will inconvenience travelers by squeezing essential services provided by the (opulently armed and stylishly uniformed) DHS.  Quality ammunition is not cheap.  (Of course, news reports that DHS is about to spend $50 million on new uniforms suggests a certain cavalier attitude toward government frugality.)

Spending money this way is beyond absurd well into perverse.  According to the AP story a DHS spokesperson justifies this acquisition to “help the government get a low price for a big purchase.” Peggy Dixon, spokeswoman for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center:  “The training center and others like it run by the Homeland Security Department use as many as 15 million rounds every year, mostly on shooting ranges and in training exercises.”

At 15 million rounds (which, in itself, is pretty extraordinary and sounds more like fun target-shooting-at-taxpayer-expense than a sensible training exercise) … that’s a stockpile that would last DHS over a century.  To claim that it’s to “get a low price” for a ridiculously wasteful amount is an argument that could only fool a career civil servant.

Meanwhile, Senator Diane Feinstein, with the support of President Obama, is attempting to ban 100 capacity magazine clips.  Doing a little apples-to-oranges comparison, here, 1.6 billion rounds is … 16 million times more objectionable.

Mr. Obama has a long history of disdain toward gun ownership.  According to Prof. John Lott, in Debacle, a book he co-authored with iconic conservative strategist Grover Norquist,

“When I was first introduced to Obama (when both worked at the University of Chicago Law School, where Lott was famous for his analysis of firearms possession), he said, ‘Oh, you’re the gun guy.’

I responded: ‘Yes, I guess so.’

’I don’t believe that people should own guns,’ Obama replied.

I then replied that it might be fun to have lunch and talk about that statement some time.

He simply grimaced and turned away. …

Unlike other liberal academics who usually enjoyed discussing opposing ideas, Obama showed disdain.”

Mr. Obama?  Where’s the disdain now?  Cancelling, or at minimum, drastically scaling back — by 90% or even 99%, the DHS order for ammo, and its receipt and deployment of armored personnel carriers, would be a “fourfer.”
  •  The federal government would set an example of restraint in the matter of weaponry.
  • It would reduce the deficit without squeezing essential services.
  • It would do both in a way that was palatable to liberals and conservatives, slightly depolarizing America.
  • It would somewhat defuse, by the government making itself less armed-to-the-teeth, the anxiety of those who mistrust the benevolence of the federales.

If Obama doesn’t show any leadership on this matter it’s an opportunity for Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, to summon Secretary Napolitano over for a little national conversation. Madame Secretary?  Buying 1.6 billion rounds of ammo and deploying armored personnel carriers runs contrary, in every way, to what “homeland security” really means.  Discuss.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Papal conclave: anti-mafia police raid offices in diocese of frontrunner



The right things are happening. Benjamin Fulford has reported that:
"Scola, however, represents the “Merchants of Venice” group of old Italian black nobility including the highly secretive Del Banco family (the original banksters), according to MI5 and Japanese underworld sources. Some of the Del Banco family changed their name to Warburg a long time ago and were among the principal founders of the Federal Reserve Board."

Cardinals urged to overcome divisions at special mass shortly after detectives mount dawn raids in diocese of Angelo Scola

John Hooper and Lizzy Davies in Vatican City
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 12 March 2013 07.22 EDT

Roman Catholic cardinals have been urged to overcome divisions at a special mass ahead of the papal conclave, just hours after anti-mafia investigators carried out a string of raids in the diocese of the leading candidate.

In a homily before thousands of pilgrims and the most senior figures in the church, Angelo Sodano, the dean of the college of cardinals, made a last-ditch attempt to banish infighting, as he extolled the virtues of unity amid diversity.

But even as preparations for the mass were being made, Cardinal Angelo Scola, the archbishop of Milan – and reportedly the hot favourite to be the next pope – suffered a blow.

Anti-mafia detectives swooped on homes, offices, clinics and hospitals in Lombardy, the region around Milan, and elsewhere. A statement said the dawn raids were part of an investigation into "corruption linked to tenders by, and supplies to, hospitals".

Healthcare in Lombardy is the principal responsibility of the regional administration, which for the past 18 years has been run by Roberto Formigoni, a childhood friend of Scola and the leading political representative of the Communion and Liberation fellowship. Until recently, Scola was seen as the conservative group's most distinguished ecclesiastical spokesman.

But he has progressively loosened his ties to Communion and Liberation, and in early 2012 publicly rebuked the movement after its leader was found to have written to Pope Benedict, implicitly criticising the cardinal's liberal predecessors in the Milan archdiocese.

The regional administration headed by Formigoni – a member of Silvio Berlusconi's party – collapsed last October amid a welter of accusations regarding alleged corruption and misconduct. The final blow came when one of his regional ministers was arrested, accused of buying votes from the 'Ndrangheta, the Calabrian mafia.

Formigoni himself is a formal suspect in an investigation into corruption and conspiracy. He denies the accusations.

Among those arrested on Tuesday was Massimo Guarischi, who in 2009 was given a five-year jail sentence after being convicted of conspiracy and auction-rigging. Guarischi is said to have organised expensive holidays for Formigoni that are central to the investigation into the former governor's affairs.

Scola, who has headed the Milan archdiocese since 2011, is regarded as the champion of a largely non-Italian faction that is challenging the entrenched power of the Vatican cardinals. He was close to the last pope, whose household was run by women members of Communion and Liberation.

He entered the conclave as favourite after the Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported that his supporters were confident he had the support of up to 50 of the 115 cardinal-electors.

But Scola's candidacy has been overshadowed by his past links to a movement that has been linked with pervasive sleaze in Lombardy. By the time Formigoni dissolved the regional assembly last year, 13 members of the governing majority were under investigation, suspected of offences ranging from taking bribes to incitement to violence.

Formigoni belongs to the Memores Domini, a core group of Communion and Liberation members pledged to live by the values of fraternal love, obedience and poverty.

At the pre-conclave mass in St Peter's basilica in Rome, Sodano called on the faithful and electors to overcome divisions and unite behind the next pope.

"Each of us is … called to co-operate with the successor of Peter, the visible foundation of such an ecclesial unity," he said, quoting St Paul's letter to the Ephesians.

The basilica erupted in applause when Sodano, who is 85 and therefore not eligible to vote in the conclave, paid tribute to the "brilliant" leadership of Benedict XVI.

"At the same time today, we implore the Lord, that through the pastoral solicitude of the cardinal fathers, he may soon grant another good shepherd to his holy church," he said.

In his homily, Sodano, who is seen as representing the "old guard" of the Vatican, stressed the pastoral and charitable role of the papacy, amid warnings from many that Benedict's successor should primarily be a good manager capable of reforming the troubled Roman curia.

Karzai Inflames U.S. Tensions: Afghan President's Claim Taliban Kill 'in Service to America' Clouds Hagel Visit


By Dion Nissenbaum and Yaroslav Trofimov

KABUL—America's fraught ties with Afghanistan suffered a jarring blow Sunday, when Afghan President Hamid Karzai said during a visit by the new U.S. defense secretary that the Taliban were killing Afghan civilians "in service to America."

The remarks, in a televised speech hours before Mr. Karzai's meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, capped a series of confrontations between the Afghan president and the U.S. over his demands to assert Afghan sovereignty and curtail American military operations.

Mr. Karzai met Mr. Hagel a day after suspected Taliban suicide bombers killed at least 18 people at the Ministry of Defense in Kabul and in the eastern province of Khost.

In his address, Mr. Karzai said the U.S. doesn't want to leave the country after the NATO coalition's mandate expires at the end of 2014 because it covets Afghan resources and is talking with Taliban leaders behind his back.

"Taliban are every day in talks with America, but in Kabul and Khost they set off bombs to show strength to America," Mr. Karzai said. "The bombs that went off in Kabul and Khost yesterday were not a show of power to America, but were in service to America…It was in the service of foreigners not withdrawing from Afghanistan."

U.S. Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, who took command of coalition forces last month, called Mr. Karzai's charges "categorically false."

"We have fought too hard over the past 12 years, we have shed too much blood over the last 12 years, we have done too much to help the Afghan security forces grow over the last 12 years to ever think that violence or instability would ever be to our advantage," he said.

Mr. Karzai's remarks blindsided American officials who had hoped to use Mr. Hagel's two-day visit, his first overseas trip as defense secretary, to shore up fragile relations with the Afghan president as the U.S. ends its longest foreign war.

Though most of the 66,000 U.S. troops now in Afghanistan are slated to go home next year, the U.S. hopes to leave behind an advisory and counterterrorism force that would support the Afghan government after 2014.

Large Explosion Hits Kabul as Hagel Visits
American defense officials now have to assess how much damage Mr. Karzai's allegations will have on their plans, already threatened by discord over whether to grant immunity from prosecution to U.S. troops and by the Afghan leader's refusal to negotiate with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The war against the Taliban has claimed the lives of 2,179 American service members since 2001, says the casualty tracking website icasualties.org. While the U.S. has held talks with the Taliban in the past, contacts were stalled by the Taliban's refusal to negotiate directly with Kabul.

Mr. Karzai's speech on Sunday sparked some frank exchanges during Mr. Karzai's dinner at the presidential palace with Mr. Hagel, Gen. Dunford and other officials from both nations, U.S. officials said. Mr. Hagel "struck the right balance between expressing support for Afghanistan and strongly pushing back on wildly inaccurate claims," one U.S. official said.

After the dinner, Mr. Hagel offered a muted public response to Mr. Karzai's comments that came in contrast to the forceful defense from Gen. Dunford. "I told the president it was not true that the United States was unilaterally working with the Taliban," Mr. Hagel told reporters.

The defense secretary suggested that the Afghan president might have been baiting America to cultivate support from anti-Western forces in the politically fractured country. Mr. Karzai's term expires next year, and the field of potential successors is wide open, ranging from his brother and other allies to bitter political foes. "I was once a politician, so I can understand the kind of pressures that especially leaders of countries are always under, so I would hope that, again, we can move forward—and I have confidence that we will," Mr. Hagel said.

The Afghan president's spokesman, Aimal Faizi, said the Afghan leader used the occasion to complain about civilian casualties of U.S. operations and the detentions of Afghan citizens.

In particular, Mr. Faizi said, Mr. Karzai raised the issue of an engineering student who, he said, had been seized illegally at Kandahar University by an Afghan militia working for the Central Intelligence Agency. Mr. Karzai mentioned in his speech that he was up until as late as midnight on Saturday to win the student's release; on Sunday, he issued a decree banning foreign forces from entering universities and detaining Afghan students.

The CIA declined to comment on the matter.

"Such incidents, if they continue, are a clear breach of Afghan national sovereignty, and will create anger among the people," Mr. Faizi said. "Any kind of bilateral relations should be based on respect of sovereignty of the two nations."

Mr. Karzai gained power following the U.S. ouster of the Taliban regime in 2001, and initially enjoyed close ties with the U.S., holding weekly videoconference calls with President George W. Bush.

These relations deteriorated during the 2009 Afghan presidential elections, after which Mr. Karzai accused some Obama administration officials of scheming to oust him.

In previous statements, Mr. Karzai also alleged that the U.S. was secretly flying insurgents into northern Afghanistan in helicopters, as part of a plan to destabilize the country, and once even threatened to join the Taliban himself.

Mr. Karzai and Mr. Hagel have a strained personal history. In 2008, Mr. Hagel joined fellow Senators Joe Biden and John Kerry for a turbulent dinner in which they pressed the Afghan president to seriously tackle corruption in his government. When Mr. Karzai dismissed the concerns as unfounded, Mr. Biden stormed out of the meeting, throwing down his napkin.

Mr. Hagel's restrained comments on the Afghan president Sunday suggested that U.S. leaders recognize that they need Mr. Karzai's cooperation to complete the withdrawal of U.S. troops and equipment. Military analysts said Mr. Karzai might be trying to challenge Mr. Hagel, who has orders from President Barack Obama to quickly end the war.

"President Karzai has a history of testing new [coalition] commanders to see what the response is to his demands," said Kimberly Kagan, founder of the Institute for the Study of War who has consulted with the U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan.

U.S. officials have envisaged that NATO allies would make up a large part of the residual force after 2014. Mr. Karzai, however, on Sunday reiterated his opposition to any deal with NATO as a whole, saying nations wanting to keep troops here would need to negotiate directly with Kabul.

"If you want to stay beyond 2014, all of you separately need to sign agreements with the Afghan people," Mr. Karzai said Sunday. "Limited numbers, in a location we chose and under our conditions and framework, with respect for our laws, our sovereignty, our traditions and culture."

Few, if any, Western allies would consider contributing troops outside the NATO framework, diplomats say. "They want us out, that is for sure," a Western official said. "They feel that we are part of the problem."

Despite these tensions, Gen. Dunford defended U.S.-Afghan relations, especially between military leaders of the two countries, as dynamic partnerships that can be the "shock absorbers" through turbulent times. "We don't have a broken relationship," he said. "We don't have a lack of trust. We have a relationship that can actually absorb this tension as we work through difficult issues."

But Mr. Karzai's Sunday speech was only one such shock to the relationship. It followed the U.S.'s abrupt cancellation of its planned handover of the main U.S. detention facility at Bagram Air Field, and Mr. Karzai's demand that U.S. Special Operations forces leave the strategic province of Wardak near Kabul.

Following Mr. Karzai's speech, Mr. Hagel also canceled a planned joint news conference with the Afghan leader at the presidential palace. U.S. officials said this was because of security concerns that rippled across Kabul in the wake of Saturday's bombings.

U.S. bases in the capital were on heightened alert. Mr. Hagel previously canceled scheduled visits to the Ministry of Defense—site of Saturday's Kabul bombing—and the Interior Ministry. Instead, he met with the two ministers at alternative locations in the city.

—Habib Khan Totakhil, Julian E. Barnes and Siobhan Gorman contributed to this article.